The lack of English text actually benefits a non-Japanese reader in some ways. The lack of verbal explanation frees the reader to surrender himself to the images themselves. Allowing the sequences of images to pass and engrave themselves on your imagination through repetition, you will find yourself inspired by these motifs and the artists that practiced them. Startling variations, such as the stylized, almost modernly abstract clouds of Tosa Misufumi’s Amanohashi (above, from 1855), will open your eyes to the amazing inventiveness of these artists working within an ancient tradition. Nobuyoshi Hamada’s two volumes of Traditional Patterns in Japanese Design are an ideal gift for any young artist learning how to see the world and shape an individual vision from a universe of possibilities.
[Many thanks to Rizzoli Books for providing me with review copies of the PIE Books titles Wave, Cloud, Pine: Traditional Patterns in Japanese Design and Flower, Bird: Traditional Patterns in Japanese Design and for the images above.]